Naxiely Lopez-Puente

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Naxiely Lopez-Puente covers Hidalgo County and Edinburg for The Monitor. You can contact her at nlopez@themonitor.com or (956) 683-4434.

Hidalgo County EMS files for bankruptcy, but says it’s business as usual for its...

The largest South Texas ambulance provider has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to reorganize and restructure its debt, according to a news release from Hidalgo County Emergency Medical Services. And although the ambulance company uses “Hidalgo County” in its name, the entity is not governed by the county. Instead, it operates privately across the region, serving Edinburg, Pharr and parts of eastern and western Hidalgo County in addition to Jim Hogg County and Coastal Bend. “This voluntary filing was determined to be in the best interest of the company at this time, and we want to assure the public and our clients that Hidalgo County EMS and South Texas Air Med (will) remain operational with the same and highest standard of care that our clients and the public deserve,” owner Kenneth B. Ponce said in the release. “All services, including 9-1-1 ambulances and air ambulances, will remain in full force.” Read more on the monitor.com.

Edinburg increases tax rate by 4.5 cents

The Edinburg city council increased the 2020 fiscal year tax rate by nearly 9% last week. But Edinburg’s 8.64% tax rate increase is due in large part to the $30 million in bonds residents overwhelmingly approved last year via an election. Those bonds, which are meant to fund drainage and roadway improvements, were supposed to lead to a 5-cent tax rate increase, taking the 2019 rate of 63.5 cents per $100 valuation to 68.5 cents. That would have been a 9.44% increase. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

County passes budget, reduces tax rate

Hidalgo County commissioners passed a $308.6 million total budget earlier this week, cutting the tax rate by a half cent and bracing for a $6 million shortfall. Of the $308.6 million total budget, about $220.3 million will go to the general fund budget, which covers maintenance and operations, and about $28.3 million will be used to pay the debt service. Other budgeted monies include $22.7 million for the special revenue fund and $37.2 million for the enterprise fund. And although the county’s financial outlook seems positive based on previous financial trends, there are several factors that could derail even the best laid plans. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Season of Sadness: For Alton bus crash survivors and first responders, the scars run...

Alton volunteer firefighter Luis Guerrero was driving home after dropping off his wife at work the morning of Sept. 21, 1989, when the call came in over the scanner: a school bus with 81 aboard had crashed near 5 Mile Line and Bryan Road. Guerrero immediately made his way to the area, but to his dismay, only a Dr Pepper truck could be seen parked along the road. The bus, he would soon find out, had plunged about 40 feet into a water-filled caliche pit, students were trapped inside, and it was quickly sinking. What transpired next forever changed the lives of countless people, Guerrero included. Now known as the infamous Alton bus crash, the collision is considered the worst school bus crash in Texas history. It claimed the lives of 21 students and led to widespread changes in school bus safety. Saturday marked 30 years since the wreck that inspired a corrido, a documentary and a book titled “The Alton Bus Crash.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Edinburg to mull city secretary’s post following arrest

Edinburg's city council is set to discuss the city secretary’s employment status Tuesday, following her arrest in connection to the mayor’s alleged voter fraud scheme. A Hidalgo County grand jury indicted Ludivina Leal, 42, late last month on an illegal voting charge, a second degree felony, and now city officials must figure out how to move forward. Though Leal was eligible to vote in the November 2017 municipal election, she’s alleged to have allowed a Mission man to use her address to vote illegally in Edinburg. Investigators believe she did this as part of a voter fraud scheme Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina is accused of devising. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Teen’s sexual assault alleged in $25M lawsuit against Edinburg schools

EDINBURG — The school district here is facing a $25 million lawsuit that alleges it didn’t do enough to stop a high school teacher from sexually assaulting female students even after one of the victims complained. Houston personal injury attorney Tony Buzbee filed the lawsuit Aug. 29 on behalf of a former Robert Vela High School student, whom Buzbee only referred to as Jane Doe to protect her privacy. Doe alleges her Career and Technology teacher, Francisco Coronado Badillo III, sexually assaulted her numerous times while on and off campus, beginning in March 2017. Read more at the monitor.com.

Longtime Edinburg EDC employee resigns

A longtime employee who oversaw the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation during major transitions for almost two decades is no longer employed at the nonprofit. Nelda Ramirez, who most recently served as the director of finance and contract administration, left her post Friday, according to multiple sources close to the entity. It’s unclear why Ramirez resigned, and interim Executive Director Ruben Ramirez refused to give any details about her departure. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Hidalgo County promises half-cent tax rate cut

Hidalgo County commissioners agreed to cut the tax rate by a half cent Tuesday during budget workshop No. 7. Precinct 2 Commissioner Eddie Cantu had been pushing the commissioners court to decrease the tax rate by 1 cent, but losing about $3.5 million in revenue did not seem like something his colleagues wanted to do. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Hidalgo County courts-at-law judges get hefty raises

Five Hidalgo County courts-at-law judges will each get more than $18,000 in salary increases next year, and it’s not because the commissioners court was feeling generous. The 86th Texas Legislature essentially mandated the pay raises earlier this year when legislators passed House Bill 2384. The new law enacted a new salary structure for the Texas judiciary. “The new salary structure rewards continued service by providing a salary increase for judges who have four or more years of service and increases the amount of longevity pay for state judges,” a letter from the Texas Office of Court Administration stated. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Alamo chamber director to run for Dem chair

Hidalgo County Democratic Chairwoman Norma Ramirez will face at least one opponent in the 2020 March Primary. Alamo Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kassandra Elejarza announced her candidacy for the post in a news release earlier this week. Elejarza currently serves as vice president of the Texas Democratic Women, a statewide organization that encourages women to get involved in all aspects of the political process and to run for elected office. Read more at the monitor.com